>A Pint of the Black Stuff (but it’s not what you think…)

3 Apr


The phrase “a pint of the black stuff” usually conjures up an image of a cold, creamy pint of stout.  Not this time… it’s all about black pudding – and no ordinary black pudding.  

Sean Kelly of Kellys Butchers in Newport, Co. Mayo has created the ultimate fusion food… a black pudding in the shape of a pint!  This creation was awarded a gold medal by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Goute-Boudin (The Black Pudding Fraternity of Lovers of Good Food) and that’s praise indeed!

If you’re wondering what Kelly’s regular puddings look like, this should help you to identify them…


>Mothers Day Macarons

3 Apr

>Firstly, Happy Mothers Day to my lovely mum who gave me a love of food – she endured the many burnt offerings I produced in my Home Economics classes in school and didn’t murder me when I broke one of her precious Pyrex dishes.  Mum, you’re a legend & I salute you!!! Unfortunately Mum has Type 2 diabetes, so rarely gets to sample my sweet treats although she does have a weakness for Pear Gingerbread on the sly…

Last autumn, when we were on holidays in France, I bought a gorgeous Macaron kit which came with a recipe book, a piping bag & nozzles.  I soon discovered that the bag was less than useless, but the macaron recipe was superb – I was initially put off by the 15 steps required, but after a dreadful experience with a supposedly foolproof recipe, I gave it a go.  The results were outstandingly gorgeous and very delicious too.  I used food colouring pastes to get the lurid orange & green colours (it was my first time using them and I can confirm that less is more!!!).  I also used some of my Boyajian citrus oils for the orange macarons & the oil did alter the consistency so I’d recommend using an extract instead.  I also use Two Chicks Egg Whites for macarons & meringues as you need so much egg white and unless you’ve a recipe lined up to use the yolks, they tend to get thrown away, which is a criminal waste… the egg white carton is far more economical.  This makes about 60 macaron shells

Mint Chocolate, Chocolate Orange & Vanilla Macarons

Mothers Day Macarons

120g Egg Whites (about 4 egg whites)
120g Ground Almonds
220g Icing Sugar
40g Caster Sugar
Food colouring/flavouring of your choice

Preheat your oven to 150c/Gas Mark 2

Put the ground almonds & icing sugar into a blender & whizz to a very fine powder (you might think that it’s not necessary, given that both ingredients are so powdery, but the difference it makes is phenomenal)

Sieve the almond/sugar powder onto a large baking sheet & bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes until just starting to colour.  Remove from the oven & allow to cool.

Beat your egg whites until very stiff & then add the caster sugar, beating until the mixture is stiff again.

Now add your colourings & flavourings and continue beating (the mixture will loosen up a bit when you put in the paste or liquid) until stiff.

Time to add the cooled almond/sugar mix.  You need to fold it into the meringue using a spatula so you don’t beat all of the air out of the meringue & end up with flat biscuits…  When the almond & sugar have been completely incorporated into the meringue, transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a round nozzle.  Line two large baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

Pipe evenly-sized small round blobs onto the paper, allowing about a 2cm gap between each, as they will expand a little.  Give the baking sheets a bit of a slap onto a hard surface to “settle” them & to lose the little tip made by the piping nozzle and leave them to stand for 20 minutes before baking for 10-12 minutes.

You know they’re cooked when you see the 
little frilly “collar” on the base

Remove from the oven & let them cool on the tray for 10 minutes before peeling off & transferring to cooling racks.  If the macarons stick, just transfer the whole sheet to a rack & try again in 10 minutes.

Once cooled, sandwich with your filling of choice – seedless jam, Nutella, ganache or whipped cream all work really well – and eat.  They are really irrestible so probably won’t last too long, although they will keep for up to a week in an airtight container (wishful thinking…)

Dinner at Cayenne, Belfast

22 Mar

Myself and Miss Like Mam Used To Bake were up bright & early last Saturday morning because we drove at a sedate pace up the M1 to Belfast where the Irish Blog Awards were being held.  I only made it as far as the shortlist, but she was a finalist (clever clogs) so it would have been rude not to, right?  As part of the festivities, the lovely Walter organised a bloggers dinner in Cayenne – just a quick stroll from our base in the Europa Hotel where we were joined by The Mire, Deirdre from Vulgo and her lovely friends B & MT.

Cayenne is owned by Paul Rankin, previously of Roscoff (where myself & The Hubs had a memorably delicious lunch many years ago) so I knew our meal would be lovely.  In fact, Mr. Rankin had heard about our visit & very kindly tweeted me fresh from his Comic Relief appearance, hoping to get back to Belfast in time to say hi.,  Sadly, this was not to be, but our evening more than compensated for this!

Cayenne’s early bird menu is an absolute bargain at just £18.50 for 3 courses. The staff are friendly and charming, and to my delight have a large selection of gin to choose from (always a great starting point).  One Miller’s G&T later and it was time to choose from the small but perfectly formed menu.

I had the Ryefield Goats Cheese & Potato “Puff Pizza” to start.  I am not ordinarily a goats cheese fan but this was absolutely delicious – thin and very crispy with a tiny dice of tender potato & goats cheese on top.

Miss LMUTB opted for the Asian Seafood Chowder.  I would like to point out that I offered her some of my pizza but I don’t recall her being as forthcoming with her soup.

The main course chose itself as far as I was concerned… Chargrilled Bavette with Chips & Bearnaise.  And I wanted it as pink as possible.  The well done meat eaters on the far side of the table could barely suppress a shudder.  It was delicious.

Miss LMUTB had the Potato Gnocchi & Wild Mushroom Gratin with Gruyere.  This was fabulous & she offered me some in a very generous manner.  Pillowy, tender and crammed full of flavour – this would convert any carnivore.

It would have been rude not to try dessert and the choices were superb.  After a lot of mental anguish, I finally  had the Buttermilk Pannacotta with Caramelised Oranges & Miss LMUTB had the selection of icecreams.  Thankfully Cayenne don’t believe in the vanilla, strawberry & chocolate standard offering, and I was able to “borrow” some of hers.  The ginger icecream in particular was incredible – something I must make very soon.

To summarise: the company was lively, charming & entertaining.  So was Cayenne.  Go there.  Now…

Simply Delicious Sausage Rolls

22 Mar

I was on a baking roll on St. Patrick’s Day, what with the Fine Things Cake and a batch of the easiest, tastiest sausage rolls known to man.  One of my work colleagues – let’s call her Miss Carnivore – isn’t a fan of the old fruit & veg but she is very partial to a sausage roll every so often.  I have been promising for months to make her sausage rolls so she can see what the real thing is like.  These are very easy to make – all you need is high quality sausage meat, sage, shallots or onions, some ground pepper & pastry.

One really important thing is to buy the best quality sausage meat you can find.  Most supermarkets (with the exception of Superquinn) don’t stock it, so go to your local Craft Butcher and ask for 70-80% pork sausagemeat.  If you can’t get to a butcher, buy some really good sausages & remove the skins.  Cheap meat will end up with a cheap sausage roll and that just defeats the purpose of making them.

I use ready made puff pastry because it is quick and easy – If you buy the sheets of ready rolled, sprinkle them with flour & roll them even thinner – to about half of the thickness.  Puff pastry does exactly what it promises… it puffs up like mad when it is baked & I’m a fan of more sausage than roll!

Simply Delicious Sausage Rolls (makes 16)

1 pack of ready rolled Puff Pastry
450g Sausagemeat
15 Sage Leaves, finely chopped
3 Shallots, finely chopped
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Egg, beaten (for glazing)


In a large bowl, mix the sausagemeat, sage, shallots & pepper together.  You might find it handy to use disposable plastic gloves for this step.  Place the sausagemeat mix into the fridge.

Preheat your oven to 200c/Gas Mark 6

Place your sheet of pastry on a floured surface, dust it with flour & roll it out into a rectangle until it increases by about 1/3 in size.

Cut the pastry evenly into 16 pieces & brush the right hand long edge with the beaten egg.

Remove the sausagemeat from the fridge, divide into 16 & roll into long sausage shapes.  Place the sausagemeat on the pastry & roll up on the long side.  The beaten egg you just brushed onto the pastry will act like glue.  Place the sausage rolls onto baking sheets

Now decorate the tops of the sausage rolls – either lightly slash them with a knife tip or prick with a fork, and glaze with the beaten egg.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is a deep golden colour & well cooked. Leave to cool on the trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.

These are absolutely delicious warm (I ate 3 at this stage) but just as lovely cold. If you’re going to reheat them, use the oven rather than the microwave so the pastry crisps up again.


Fine Things Cake

18 Mar

Yesterday was a great day for the followers of my favourite website Beaut.ie because it was when the 50 Fine Things were announced.  I was delighted to see most of my nominees in the Top 50 and beyond thrilled when the divine Mr. Tommy Bowe hit the top spot for the second year running (thanks to a little bit of canvassing by myself, Aifs and Little Miss Like Mam Used To Bake) which resulted in a special Twitter thank you today by @tommybowe14.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, I decided to make a cake – a chocolate & creme fraiche cake which I’m sure that any one of the Fifty Fine Things could whip up in a flash!  It’s rich & delicious – just like the lads…

Fine Things Cake

140g Creme Fraiche (full fat – no skinny shortcuts please)
140g Butter (as soft as you can get it without being liquid)
225g Soft Light Brown Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract or Vanilla Paste
4 Eggs
180g Plain Flour
3 tbsp Cocoa Powder
2 tsp Baking Powder

Preheat your oven to 180c/Gas Mark 4.  Grease two 8 inch loose-bottomed cake tins & line the bases with baking paper.

Put all of your ingredients into a food mixer or large bowl & beat for 3-4 minutes with an electric whisk until everything is well mixed together.  Divide the mixture between the two cake tins & smooth the tops before baking for 25 minutes.

The cakes will rise really well & should be coming away from the sides of the tins when cooked.  Remove from the oven & allow to sit in the tins for 10 minutes before taking them out of the tin & cooling on a wire rack.



Once the cakes are cooked, the world is your oyster, decoration wise.  I used a layer of chocolate creme patisserie (I found a carton of it lurking in my cupboard) & a layer of seedless raspberry jam, but it would be phenomenal with fresh cream and berries, or a chocolate ganache icing.


Support Irish Food on St. Patrick’s Day

14 Mar

>What does St. Patrick’s Day mean to you?  In our house, it’s just another day when The Hubs has to work but I get the day off (yay for me!).  We always make a point of having a nice traditional dinner in the evening though – no Shamrock Shakes or the like for us.

With this in mind, Good Food Ireland is calling on Irish people in the run up to St. Patrick’s Day to buy local food and to choose restaurants and hotels that are committed to using Irish food ingredients.  Using local food or ingredients means that you’re directly supporting Irish farmers, food producers and fishermen.

So, this St. Patrick’s Day I shall be making Sausage Rolls using Irish sausagemeat, onions & sage to feed the hungry hordes in work.

That’s Margaret & Linda from Good Food Ireland 
at Kate’s Farm Shop in Drinagh (my favourite shop!)

Trad Irish Cookalong : Beef & Guinness Casserole

6 Mar

>It’s March, so the only Irish Foodies Cookalong topic that we could possibly do was Traditional Irish.  Given my recent shopping (beef in Superquinn) and The Hubs’ penchant for the black stuff, the dish that was in my head was a Beef and Guinness Casserole.  Casseroles are a perfect meal when it’s cold outside – they take a long time to cook because they use cheaper cuts of meat, which means long, slow cooking to break down the fibres of the meat which gives you meltingly tender results.  It’s also a very economical dish because it’s crammed full of vegetables which makes the meal go even further.  I served this with a root veg mash to mop up the gorgeous sauce.

Beef & Guinness Casserole

500g Chuck Steak, cubed
2 tbsp Plain Flour
1 tsp freshly ground Pepper
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Granules
1 tbsp Rapeseed Oil
1 500ml can of Guinness
300ml carton of Chopped Tomatoes
4 Carrots, peeled & chopped
2 Onions, peeled & chopped
150g Mushrooms, quartered
1 Rich Beef Knorr Stockpot
2 sprigs of Thyme

Preheat your oven to 175c/Gas Mark 4.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan.

Mix the flour, pepper, garlic & onion together & toss the beef in the flour mixture until well coated.

Brown the beef quickly on all sides & then transfer to a large casserole.

Deglaze the frying pan with the Guinness, scraping up all the residue – bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Pour this cooking liquid over the beef.

Now add the carrots, onions, tomatoes, stock & thyme and put the covered casserole in the oven for 2 hours

After 90 minutes, add the mushrooms and cook for a further 30 minutes.  At this stage, the meat should fall apart when prodded with a fork – if  not, stick it back in the oven for another 20-30 minutes.

Serve with a big pile of mashed potato to mop up the gorgeous gravy.  If there’s any left over, it freezes really well.

A Guide to Perfect Pancakes

5 Mar

>The lovely people at the Flour Advisory Bureau sent me a great guide on making the perfect pancake – with Shrove Tuesday coming up next week, I thought I might share their advice with you.

While the traditional sugar & lemon topping is still popular, more exciting flavour combinations & cooking techniques have been emerging,  Generally, pancakes are either griddled to form smaller thicker pancakes, or fried in butter to produce a thinner crepe.  Souffléd pancakes add a claassy, special edge to something which could be rather plain, while baking is an easier technique which can produce a similar effect.

Nonetheless, the quickest way to cook pancakes is to fry them. It can be hard to achieve perfect pancakes, so if you struggle to get them spot on then follow the Flour Advisory Bureau’s top tips. Here’s a guide to what you may have been doing wrong.

What went wrong?
Soggy pancakes – the batter may be too thick or you may have used too much batter, the pancake may be undercooked or you may not have enough fat in the frying pan.

Broken pancakes – The batter may be too thin or you may not have used enough egg in your batter recipe.

Pancakes that are difficult to roll or fold – Either the batter or pancakes are too thick or the pancakes may be overcooked.

Tips for perfect pancakes
  • Measure the ingredients exactly to ensure that the batter reaches the right consistency.
  • Mix the ingredients using a large whisk until the dry ingredients have just been mixed in. The larger the whisk, the more air you can whip into the batter, which will help to produce light, fluffy pancakes.
  • Heat the pan for two or three minutes before adding the fat to ensure that it doesn’t burn. An olive oil spray is not only a good option for those who are concerned about the fat content, it also has a high burning temperature which helps to keep the flavour of the pancake delicate.
  • One ladles worth of pancake batter is usually sufficient to make one perfect pancake.
  • You only need to flip each pancake once to avoid overcooking and toughening the pancakes.
Now you’ve honed up on your pancake making skills, why not try this recipe for American style pancakes with a sweet berry sauce

Image courtesy of the Flour Advisory Bureau

So, what’s your favourite pancake on Shrove Tuesday?  Please let me know in the comments box!

p.s. My favourite sweet one is warm apples with fleur du sel caramel & a giant blob of creme fraiche.  

Banana & Roasted Hazelnut Loaf

5 Mar

>In keeping with my “waste not, want not” philosophy (also called “cook more, eat more”), I needed to use up the bananas lurking in the fruit bowl.  There were 4 when I last looked, but knowing The Hubs & his sneaky habit of eating the food I want to cook with, I bought a few more on the way home from work.  And that was a fortuitous decision because the sneaky sod had eaten, not just one but TWO of my manky brown bananas… the brat.  That meant I had to try to mash up two hard yellow bananas which require arms of steel, not arms of jelly after a night out with the girls the evening before.

Oh well, I persevered as I knew the end result would be worth it, and it was going to be the last thing ever cooked in my old oven, so I sent it out in a blaze of glory

Banana & Roasted Hazelnut Loaf

115g softened Butter
175g Light Brown Sugar
2 large Eggs
4 medium Bananas, very ripe
100g Roasted Chopped Hazelnuts
225g Self-Raising Flour
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 170c/Gas Mark 4 and line a 2lb loaf tin, either with a loaf liner or greased baking paper

Cream the butter & sugar together until light & fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well.

Time to add the bananas & hazelnuts, mixing well.

Finally, sift in the flour, cinnamon & ginger & fold through.

Pour the mixture into the loaf tin & bake for 60-70 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Bye Bye little oven… you served me well!

Ding ding… Seconds Away – Round Two!

28 Feb


That’s my blog, so it is…
No, I’m not talking about boxing… I’ve just found out that my little blog has made the shortlist in the Food/Drink category of the Irish Blog Awards 2011 organised by the wonderful Mr. Damien Mulley Esq.  I am in absolutely fantastic company with lots of other Irish Foodies members and I’ve no idea how the poor judges are going to narrow it down even further. 
To say I am thrilled is an understatement and I thank you all very much for your lovely words of support and encouragement which keeps me going.
Aoife xxx